Numbers tell tale of Olympics terror threat

Depth of challenge being met with security, money



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BERLIN — The terror threat at the Sochi Games can be measured in numbers:7: The minimum number of terror groups active in the area. Most experts agree the total number is hard to pin down. Generally speaking, the organizations sprang from separatist groups in Chechnya and Dagestan that battled for independence from Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some of those groups later morphed into radical Islamic terror organizations. The U.S. State Department has identified one, the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade, as having links to al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based terrorist group known as AQAP.

515: The driving distance in miles from Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, to Sochi, where this year’s Winter Olympic Games are being held. It’s a road that travels centuries of hatred. Tribes have been fighting since the 17th century against Russian rule. In 1944, Josef Stalin expelled the entire ethnic Chechen population to Kazakhstan, where an estimated 60 percent died. They were allowed to return to Chechnya after Stalin’s death.

602: The distance in miles from Makhachkala, Dagestan, to Sochi, about the distance from Denver to Kansas City. That road reaches into the heart of the current terror threat. Dagestan is where the “black widow” suicide bombers come from. It’s the Dagestani groups, created in the harsh Russian response to Chechen rebel incursions into Dagestan, that have vowed to disrupt the Games.

13: The number of Muslim clerics murdered in and around Dagestan since June 2010, in a war that pits Islamist extremists against more moderate Muslim followers. Experts aren’t sure if the killings were warnings or a power play. Several of those murdered vocally opposed violence, though at least one was a proponent.

800: The number of police and police department employees murdered in Dagestan since 2011 in their piece of the war on terror. Henry Plater-Zyberk, an expert on extremism in the area with the Prague Security Studies Institute, noted that in addition to those killed, thousands of other police have been injured. There were 188 officers killed in 2011.10,000: The number of Russian army special forces troops now patrolling the Caucasus Mountains near the Olympic venues. They are part of a security force of an estimated 100,000 for the Olympics.150,000: The estimated number who died during the two wars in Chechnya, fought in 1994-1996 and 1999-2006. Hundreds of thousands of people fled the region.57.8 billion: The number of rubles Russia is spending on security for the games. That equates to about $2 billion.

50 billion: The total dollar cost of staging the games in Sochi. Plater-Zyberk says this number is worth noting because it explains part of the Russian strategy of pacifying the region by bringing development, and because it shows the sheer scale of the construction project that was undertaken.